Grim and Ghastly

Teddy Benigno never fails to capture the issues inherent to this country’s unending problems:

A nation is immersed in historic cycles, as is man in the great drama of birth, life and death. As is any society. Our latest two mini-cycles came, the first after the First World War which brought with it independence, the second after EDSA in 1986 which came following the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. In both cases, the Philippines failed to meet the challenge of modern times, or modernization if you will. We just didn’t have the tools. Or the dynamic culture. Our education, after a brief period of vigor, slumped. As a result, the era of “human skills” or “knowledge skills” with advanced technology and rapid productivity as its twin gods, completely escaped us. So we couldn’t produce to sustain a fast-growing population. From 20 to 78 million.

That explains our laggard economy, one of the worst in Asia, our grim and ghastly poverty, the utter ignorance and alienation of our masses, our exploding population, the criminal neglect of our cities and towns, our mounting garbage. This explains why out of this misery crime and violence stalk the face of our earth with increasing national pain, why the rich become more rich and the poor become more poor.

What amazes me is that our national leaders fail — intellectually and morally — to see the many faces of this national tragedy. So do the captains of industry fail to see it, as well as our economists, political and social scientists with very rare exceptions. Certainly our military cannot see it, for the blood of Ninoy Aquino remains on their hands, certainly not our police biggies with the reek of drugs in their swollen bank deposits. They may not see it or grasp it fully — I mean the huddled masses of the poor — but they feel it. Like the animals and insectivora of the forest, they sense it, they sense an approaching earthquake and are prepared to rampage out of their hedges and holes when it comes. Or even before.

Where does it end, I wonder? How low will the Philippines go? I look at Argentina, and I wonder if that’s where we may very well end up. More chillingly, Benigno likens our current political climate to that of post-WW1 Germany, with the pro-Erap “Puwersa ng Masa” (Power of the Masses) in the role of the rising Third Reich — to whom the masses, in their ignorant starvation and utter desperation, are listening.

Again, I wonder, how will it end?